One of the truly difficult things to come to terms with is the failure of the ‘system’. By which I mean your system, my system, anybody’s system. It’s as if we invest so much time and effort and creativity into inventing systems that we cannot accept when they fail or crash. The recent financial crash is a classic example – of course in a year’s time it will seem obvious that it had to happen, but as it has recently unfolded there has been a general incredulity as to how this has occurred. Wasn’t the Financial sector employing the best brains in the country? Wasn’t the regulation quality assured? Didn’t the politicians and Government actively promote and endorse what was going on? Hm.
All systems fail; just when we think we’ve cracked ‘it’, it cracks! For example, there are many things we can do to improve our recruitment processes, including using psychometrics, systematic interviewing processes, CV checks and so on. Yet, still the duff candidate gets the job and upends the ‘systematic’ procedures.
My own product, Motivational Maps, is a wonderful and systematic device for discovering what motivates and how motivated people are; further, its Reward Strategies package can help managers and directors really identify how to get their teams energized and moving. But there’s always ONE person for whom the Map doesn’t apply. Strangely, this is not because the Map is inaccurate, but because the Map cannot measure what some people carry around with them: psychopathology!
For these people, whatever their personality traits or their motivational profile, there is a bigger agenda that must be followed. Perhaps a good word for this would be OBSESSION – an obsession that destroys reason, logic and all internal coherence.
Norman F. Dixon’s wonderful book on the Psychology of Military Incompetence has a useful section on the difference between the autocratic (which can sometimes be justified) and the authoritarian leader, which is psychopathological, and cannot.
The behavioural characteristics of the authoritarian personality, he says, are:
1. conventionality - usually a rigid adherence to middle-class values
2. submissiveness - to the idealized moral authority of the group with which s/he identifies self, and to higher authority
3. aggressiveness - towards those who violate conventional values
4. anti-intraceptive - opposes the subjective, the imaginative, the tender-minded
5. stereotypy - disposition to stereotype and think in rigid categories
6. power - preoccupation with 'strong' leadership, exaggerated assertions of toughness
7. cynical - frequent vilification of others
8. projectivity - the projection outwards of unconscious emotional impulses, so that the world is constantly interpreted as being a dangerous place
9. 'puritanical' prurience - exaggerated concern with sexual 'goings-on'
This is a list which is useful precisely to the degree to which we can measure ourselves along the nine axes. The point is: when we encounter these behaviours in force, few systems of support and explanation are going to help us deal with them.